In the past, I’ve described the Bronica SQ-Am as the camera used by Darth Vader, I’d like to revise that statement, the Leicaflex SL2 is the camera of choice for the Dark Lord of the Sith. While my previous experience with Leica SLRs has been lacklustre, the SL2 makes up for that experience without question. The camera is a mechanical beast and shows off exactly what makes a Leica, a Leica. From amazing optics to precision mechanics. And yet of all the Leica cameras, I’ve used the SL2 is the first one I’ve picked up that felt instantly familiar I didn’t even have to check out the manual to know how to use it. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning out this beauty.

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Dirt
Make: Leitz
Model: Leicaflex SL2
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135 (35mm), 36x24mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Leica R-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1964-1976

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Good
The number one thing that the SL2 has going for it is the fact that it’s all mechanical, battery or no the camera will operate and will probably operate in any weather condition. And if you’ve used any mechanical camera from this era then the SL2 will be instantly familiar from the Nikon F2 series into the early FM and FE cameras, with the meter being powered on by flipped out the film advance lever. Metering is fairly accurate and with a match needle system and a full readout in the viewfinder, you get instant feedback and know where all your settings are without having to take your eye out of the finder. While a heavy camera, the weight isn’t too much of an issue even on extended use, and the camera controls are well laid out and easy to pick out without having to look too hard. But you don’t buy a Leica just for the camera, you get one for the optics. And the R-Mount lenses stand up to the iconic M-Mount lenses as both are built to the same exacting standards. And while for the review I had to shoot mostly wide open, I took the opportunity to shoot a second roll in better conditions and both wide open and stopped down the optics are tack sharp and produce incredible results.

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Bad
There are still a few issues with the SL2, the first being the size of it. As much as the Retina was cramped U-Boat, the SL2 seems like a Battleship in comparison. And it doesn’t have to be, everything on the camera could have been combined into a smaller package without compromising build quality. While the camera can be carried the whole day, it wouldn’t be too comfortable by the end of it. The second issue I have with the camera is the film advance. Now, film advances are something I’ve been critical about from the beginning but the film advance is fairly funky on this one. First off the draw is too long and the sudden spring return threw me and while I did get into the habit of putting the brakes on the advance I also found that it sprung back to the off position, meaning I’d have to pull it out before getting the next shot metered. While I know this might be to conserve the battery it just seems over-engineered. And finally I couldn’t talk about a Leica without covering price, while the SLR cameras from Leica are generally pushed aside in favour of their rangefinder counterparts the R-Mount lenses and even the SLR bodies still go for a premium price on the used market.

CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2CCR Review 81 - Leicaflex SL2

The Lowdown
Of the few Leica cameras I’ve reviewed, the SL2 is probably the only one that I’d actually go out and buy for myself, but again the price will keep me at bay. But don’t let the price scare you, if you have the money and want one of the best mechanical SLRs out there in the premium category then the SL2 should be your choice. From start to finish the camera outputs quality images and in the right hands with the right strap will take care of all your photography needs. In fact, if it had been at an affordable price point the SL2 might be among the choice system cameras with the Nikon F2 and Canon F-1, and it like these two iconic cameras show what an SLR should be, simple, quality, robust, and optically sound.

All Photos Taken at the Terra Winter Market in Milton, Ontario, Canada
Letiz Leicaflex SL2 – Leitz Wetzlar Summicron-R 1:2/50 – Rollei Retro 400s @ ASA-200
Pyrocat-HD (1+1+100) 14:00 @ 20C


  1. If you like the Leicaflex SL2, but are averted by the price, try the SL or even a Standard. I have both, love both, and they can be had for several Standards / SLs for one SL2.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the heads up!

  2. I have all three of the Leicaflexes. I good light I enjoy shooting with a Leicaflex Standard (2nd type). It has a precision feel to it that greater than that of the SL and SL2. I’m using a homemade eyepiece diopter cut from a set of cheap reading glasses; this works well for me.

    In dim light, I prefer the SL2 viewfinder, in particular the split image feature. It is quite a help for my aging eyes. I use Leitz diopter for the SL2.

  3. Although I’ve used a pair of Leica M3 bodies with 35/50/90/135 lenses since 2007, I was tempted by a Leicaflex SL (1970) a couple of years ago. I liked it so much I bought a second body and have now collected 28/35/50/90/135/180/250mm lenses, all f2.8 except the 50 (f2) and 250 (f4). These are fabulous cameras and I’ve sold off my Nikon F/F2/F3 cameras and lenses. The one drawback is the battery for the meter, the PX625 1.35v mercury-oxide ll being banned in Europe, US and Aus-NZ. Workarounds include using the currently available PX625 Alkalyne cell 1.5v gaining under exposure of 1 stop at first but voltage drops with use approaching 1.35v, or the PX675 hearing aid cell 1.4v but smaller sized. My two bodies both came with the 1.5v cell, but I’ve now acquired a pair of brass adapters that the PX675 cell fits into and this is the same size as the original cell.
    The reason I acted swiftly to acquire my lenses is that the prices are starting to rise at an alarming rate due to the introduction of Chinese-made adapter rings that allow the R series lenses for the Leicaflex (1964-68) SL (1968-74) and SL2 (1974-76) cameras to be used on modern digital cameras – Sony – Nikon – Canon etc. Yes, this gear is heavy, the 180mm f2.8 & 250mm f4 have tripod mounts. The 250 is version 1 and 1400g. If attacked, I could use it as a club. Baseball bat? No, Leica 250mm f4 Telyt and not prohibited as an offensive weapon per se.

  4. Thank you for the review!!. I own a SL1 and SL2 as well as a SL1 and SL2 Mot and motor. The camera system and the lenses are marvelous! and wonderfully easy to use. My only advice which ill raise the initial cost is to have them CLA!!!. Plus have the battery chamber changed and recalibrated to be able to use the modern batteries. Sure one can use the PX675 1.35v but they are unpractical and once unsealed the battery only lasts 2 weeks. The recommendation is to CLA theses cameras every 10-12 years! and they will last (Forever!!). It is almost better to find a cheap beat up SL2 and then have it serviced lubricated adjusted and change the battery and recalibration! then you will be happy with the camera. (One more thing the advantage of a heavy camera is that there is less chance of shakes when you take a picture without a tripod) D

  5. David M Burke: perhaps the best known living photographer to use the Leicaflex SL is Doug Herr, the birdman of Sacramento. He has commented on several forums that he can go one shutter-speed slower with these heavy cameras than the later R series. I’m a great fan of the seriously heavy trio. My favourite being the SL of which I now have 3. Just great.

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